Feeling tired all the time? You're far from alone. According to the Sleep Health Foundation, 33-45% of Australians get inadequate sleep. And between work or school, family or friends, and all the other commitments we're juggling, it's easy to blame a busy lifestyle on constant fatigue.
But if you're always asking yourself, "Why am I so tired?" don't blow it off. Give yourself two or three weeks to make some lifestyle changes: trim your social schedule, scale back your workload at the office, and try to sleep more.
"If you're still feeling the symptoms of fatigue after those changes, then you need professional help," says Dr Sandra Adamson Fryhofer.
Excess exhaustion could be the sign of a more serious medical condition that can be treated.
Ever notice that when you're feeling tired or cranky, you haven't had a glass of water for a while? That's no coincidence-being dehydrated can have a real impact on your mood and energy levels. Researchers believe parts of our brain may actually shrink when they're low on liquids (yikes). And you don't need to be severely dehydrated to experience these cognitive symptoms, either. You may start feeling sluggish even if you're only a tiny bit dehydrated.
The symptoms: You don't need to feel thirsty to be dehydrated, though that is one symptom. Other symptoms (besides fatigue) include dark urine, brain fog, swollen fingers, headache, and dry skin.
The tests: Dehydration is usually measured by the percentage of bodyweight you've lost in fluids. Weigh yourself before and after your next workout to see how dehydrated you get. At 1 to 2 percent, you're mildly dehydrated; 2 to 4 percent, moderately dehydrated; and more than 5 percent, severely dehydrated (call your doctor).
The treatments: Mild to moderate dehydration is easy to treat: Just drink more water!
When your thyroid hormones are out of whack, even everyday activities will wipe you out. The thyroid gland, about the size of the knot on a man's tie, is found in the front of the neck and produces hormones that control your metabolism. Too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism), and metabolism speeds up. Too little (hypothyroidism), and metabolism slows down.
The symptoms: Hyperthyroidism causes muscle fatigue and weakness, which you may notice first in the thighs. Exercises such as riding a bike or climbing stairs become more difficult. Other thyroid symptoms include unexplained weight loss, feeling warm all the time, increased heart rate, shorter and less frequent menstrual flows, and increased thirst. Hyperthyroidism is most commonly diagnosed in women in their 20s and 30s, but it can occur in older women and men too, says Dr Robert McConnell, a specialist in thyroid and parathyroid gland disorders.
Hypothyroidism causes fatigue, an inability to concentrate, and muscle soreness, even with minor activity. Other symptoms include weight gain due to water retention, feeling cold all the time (even in warmer weather), heavier and more frequent menstrual flows, and constipation. Hypothyroidism is most common in women over age 50; in fact, as many as 10% of women past 50 will have at least mild hypothyroidism, says Dr McConnell.
The tests: Thyroid disease can be detected with a blood test. "Thyroid disorders are so treatable that all people who complain of fatigue and/or muscle weakness should have the test done," says Dr McConnell.
The treatments: Thyroid disease treatments vary, but may include medications, surgery, or radioactive iodine.
In Australia, 1.2 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes (Type 1 and 2), but many more may not even know they have it. Sugar, also called glucose, is the fuel that keeps your body going. And that means trouble for people with type 2 diabetes who can't use glucose properly, causing it to build up in the blood. Without enough energy to keep the body running smoothly, people with diabetes often notice fatigue as one of the first warning signs, say Johns Hopkins researchers.
The symptoms: Aside from feeling tired all the time , other signs include excessive thirst, frequent urination, hunger, weight loss, irritability, yeast infections, and blurred vision.
The tests: There are two major tests for diabetes. The fasting plasma glucose test, which is more common, measures your blood glucose level after fasting for 8 hours. With the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), blood is drawn twice: just before drinking a glucose syrup, then 2 hours later.
The treatments: Your doctor will advise you on how to control your symptoms through diet changes, oral medications, and/or insulin.
More than "the blues," depression is a major illness that affects the way we sleep, eat, and feel about ourselves and others. Without treatment, the symptoms of depression may last for weeks, months, or even years.
The symptoms: We don't all experience depression in the same way. But commonly, depression can cause decreased energy, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, problems with memory and concentration, and feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness and negativity.
The tests: There's no blood test for depression, but your doctor may be able to identify it by asking you a series of questions. If you experience five or more of these symptoms below for more than 2 weeks, or if they interfere with your life, see your doctor or mental health professional: fatigue or loss of energy; sleeping too little or too much; a persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood; reduced appetite and weight loss; increased appetite and weight gain; loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed; restlessness or irritability; persistent physical symptoms that don't respond to treatment, such as headaches, chronic pain, or constipation and other digestive disorders; difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions; feeling guilty, hopeless, or worthless; thoughts of death or suicide.
The treatments: Most people who struggle with depression are able to thrive through a combination of talk therapy and medication.
This baffling condition causes a strong fatigue that comes on quickly. People who suffer from CFS feel too tired to carry on with their normal activities and are easily exhausted with little exertion.
The symptoms: Other signs include headache, muscle and joint pain, weakness, tender lymph nodes, and an inability to concentrate. Chronic fatigue syndrome remains puzzling, because it has no known cause.
The tests: There is none. Your doctor must rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such as lupus and multiple sclerosis, before making the diagnosis.
The treatments: Sadly, there is no approved medicinal cure for chronic fatigue. Self-care, antidepressants, talk therapy, or joining a support group may help.
You could have this sleep-disrupting problem if you wake up feeling tired no matter how much rest you think you got. Sleep apnoea symptoms include brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. In the most common type, obstructive sleep apnoea, your upper airway actually closes or collapses for a few seconds, which, in turn, alerts your brain to wake you up to begin breathing again. Someone with obstructive sleep apnoea may stop breathing dozens or even hundreds of times a night, says Dr Roseanne Barker, a leader in sleep medicine.
The symptoms: Sleep apnoea is often signaled by snoring and is generally followed by tiredness the next day. Because sleep apnoea can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke, it's important to be tested.
The tests: This involves an overnight stay at a sleep clinic, where you'll undergo a polysomnogram, which is a painless test that will monitor your sleep patterns, breathing changes, and brain activity.
The treatments: If you're diagnosed with sleep apnoea, you may be prescribed a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device, a mask that fits over your nose and mouth, and blows air into your airways while you sleep. Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor may also recommend surgery.